I’m a writer integrating spirituality and practical communication principles living in a small seacoast village on the northeast coast of Scotland. I grew up in New Jersey, Boston, and Long Island and went to college in Ohio.
In my twenties, I started to practice meditation, following the teachings of an Indian guru. For ten years, I lived like a monk, renounced all the worldly pleasures, lived in ashrams through the U.S, and traveled the globe teaching meditation. Finally, in my thirties, I reentered the mainstream and raised a family while building my sales, consulting, and executive coaching career.
There’s a lot to disagree about these days: politics, shutdowns, masks, travel restrictions, vaccines—you name it. And then there are the more mundane disagreements in everyday life, the little things, like setting the thermostat.
Someone wants to turn it down. You want it up. Someone says, “It’s too hot in here.” You say, “It’s not hot. It’s cold.” Before you know it, you’re in a silly argument. None of us need more aggravation, especially right now.
In order to express yourself respectfully and defuse arguments before they start, it’s important to understand the difference between facts, opinions, and toxic opinions.
That was my 10th grade English teacher, Joel Kabatznick doing his “Words of the Week Club” routine. Every Friday, he’d spend about ten minutes teaching us words we didn’t know, like “idiosyncrasy” or “meretricious.” And, every so often, he’d slip in his brand of sex education, which would make every teenager squirm and blush when they had to say things they thought about but would never say in public, much less in a room full of kids they didn’t really know.
Mr. Kabatznick was by far the most memorable, inspiring, and hippest teacher I’ve ever had…
Words create our reality. Once we put them out there, we can’t take them back. Expressions like “I didn’t mean to say that” or “I was only kidding” come too late.
So why do couples get into needless arguments? Jeffery S. Smith, MD, writes in Psychology Today:
The cause of arguments and fights is a lack of mutual, empathic understanding. When empathy is not engaged, then people revert to a self-protective mode and become judgmental. The result is a bad feeling on both sides and no happy ending.
People want to be understood, not just heard.
People typically shut down when someone talks for more than 40 seconds. I’d recently read that from Mark Goulston, author of Just Listen, and this past weekend I had a firsthand experience of it.
My houseguest, someone I didn’t know very well, turned out to be quite the talker. As we sat together after dinner his verbal stream of consciousness washed over me, and I wondered when he might pause to take a breath. He didn’t.
I felt myself shutting down, losing interest not just in listening to him but also in saying anything. The nonstop talking continued at breakfast…
I slid my lunch tray along the chrome rails, grabbing a mini pizza instead of the mystery meat in brown sauce, and added a carton of chocolate milk and an ice cream sandwich. Now I had to find a place to sit. As I neared the end of the cafeteria line, anxiety turned to panic.
My eyes scanned the dining room — dozens of long tables with six chairs on each side, filled with kids, none of whom I knew. I put on my best I-know-what-I’m-doing look — pretending to find the friends I didn’t have while I searched for…
I received an email recently from a friend explaining why he wasn’t going to sign up for my newsletter — “I’m deluged with stuff I have to read and so will politely decline your offer.” While it was thoughtful of him to let me know he wants nothing to do with my newsletter, I was more interested in his use of the phrase have to.
When someone says “I have to,” alarm bells go off in my head — I start wondering what’s going on under the surface. “I have to” is a linguistic shortcut that diminishes personal choice and…
Life begins in ignorance — we don’t know how to do the simplest things: read a book, tie our shoes or ride a bike. But before we know it, we’ve mastered things that once seemed impossible, often not realizing how much we have learned until months or years later.
It’s as if we learn while we aren’t paying attention. So, with sixty-nine years under my belt now, here are a few things I’ve learned when I wasn’t looking.
When I was 17, my girlfriend and I got very drunk while my parents were out of town. After I got sick…
I recently wrote an article about my 25-year-old high school English teacher, Joel Kabatznick, and the profound impact he had on my life. He inspired me like no one else because he loved what he did, and it showed. He was funny, irreverent, charismatic, and brought his inspired teaching style to thousands of students around the world until he passed away from multiple sclerosis at the age of 54.
While researching the article, I tried to find a family member to speak to. No luck. I did find some comments on a memorial page, former students raving about him —…
A few years ago, when I was dating the woman who’s now my wife, I cooked dinner in her home and was looking for a knife to chop vegetables. She said to try the top drawer near the stove. When I opened it, I found a knife all right—along with a hammer, screwdrivers, a tape measure, a chunk of string, a small tube of glue, and lots of other stuff.
Her house was tidy; everything arranged just so — the plants, the artwork, all the little touches. Every day, she made the bed, pillows arranged symmetrically. But when I opened…